by Jack Maidment
The first time I saw Jerryd Bayless for any length of time was when he appeared in Adam Yauch’s frankly excellent documentary Gunnin’ for that #1 Spot.
Telling the tale of the top high school basketball players in America as they took part in the Elite 24 game at Rucker Park, the film provided what would be a telling glimpse into the lives of a handful of players who within two or three years would be playing in the NBA.
Just like they said they would.
Every featured player, whether it was Michael Beasley, Kevin Love or Brandon Jennings, spoke of their drive to make it to the league and shine.
But at the time only one player made me feel like he would go through walls, actual walls, to make it and that was Bayless.
It was the way he spoke of commitment and the virtues of hard work, the way he carried himself off the court (in yoga), the way he reacted when he was told Tyreke Evans was on the cover of a magazine instead of him, but more than anything it was his eyes.
It seemed like he wanted to make it, and to win, more than anything.
His eyes burnt. They were flat out on fire: There was no way Jerryd Bayless, the undersized, ridiculously hard working scorer from Phoenix, Arizona, was not making it to the NBA.
So after two years on the outside in Portland and two more playing for the perennially poor Toronto Raptors, Bayless wound up in Memphis, Tennessee – eyes dimmed, perhaps a little tired, but still burning, still working hard: And no where is hard work more appreciated than in the land of the Grizzlies.
Bayless is a perfect fit. A blue collar player for a blue collar team in the most blue collar of towns.
Finally Bayless is in a situation where he can succeed and where his contributions will mean more than lottery balls.
Backing up Mike Conley in Memphis means 16 minutes a night. It means steady point play. It means hitting open shots and playing defense. And so far this season Bayless has been stellar.
Maybe not statistically but certainly in helping his team win.
Some games it’s been key steals. Others it’s been a big block. Others still, a three down the stretch.
Put simply the man with the fire has found a home.
I always knew he would.